Psychology

Title

On the ability to provide evaluative comments: Further explorations of children's narrative competencies

Document Type

Article

Abstract

This study investigated the changing functions of evaluative devices in children's narratives. The evaluative devices included (a) references to ‘frames of mind’, particularly to emotions, (b) character speech, (c) ‘hedges’, (d) negative qualifiers, and (e) causal connectors. Narratives were elicited from a 24-picture story book. The subjects were three groups of native English-speaking Americans (12 per group): five- and nine-year-old children and college undergraduate students. A quantitative comparison revealed that (i) adults used evaluative devices three times as often as five-year-olds, and two-and-a-half times as often as the nine-year-old children; (ii) adults used significantly more references to ‘frames of mind’ and ‘hedges’ than the children; and (iii) whereas five-year-olds used each evaluative type equally often, nine-year-olds and adults used references to ‘frames of mind’ significantly more than the other four evaluation types. A second analysis, focusing specifically on the discourse functions of references to ‘frames of mind’ revealed that, early on, this particular device is used to express a local evaluative perspective on particular events, while with increasing age it is used to signal the hierarchial organization of the story events. These findings are discussed with regard to two non-linguistic developmental achievements, the formation of event schemas and the formation of a theory of mind. © 1991, Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved.

Publication Title

Journal of Child Language

Publication Date

1-1-1991

Volume

18

Issue

3

First Page

689

Last Page

710

ISSN

0305-0009

DOI

10.1017/S0305000900011314

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